“If God is for us…” (Sunday Recap)
Christopher J Wiles
pastor | writer | speaker
Yesterday I had the great privilege of speaking at Tri-State Fellowship for the first official time. It was a good time; I got reactions ranging from “You look good!” to “How old ARE you?” – with many more in between.
I’d again like to express my deep appreciation for the support that has come from so many over the years, and continues to be poured out with such generosity.
The following is a brief summary of the message I delivered, for those interested. The topic was: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” from Romans 8:31.
“The locals said the foul-smelling mass had the goopy look of chocolate mousse. The scientists said the enormous slick had the potential to bring environmental ruin to this treasured coastline.”
The above quote comes from an article in the Washington Post making reference to the oil spilling forth from the BP disaster.
Our lives are also polluted. We call it “sin.” It’s easy to feel as if life is working “against” us.
There are two major sources:
(1) Cultural opposition (New atheism, hostility toward the Christian worldview)
(2)Personal expectation (when our “ideal” self doesn’t match our “real” self
Borrowing from Lewis Smedes, I identify three sources of these expectations:
(a) Unaccepting parents (who set unrealistic expectations)
(b) Graceless religion (that instead of teaching who loves you, urges you to become loveable)
(c) Cultural pressure (that insists that you must be fashionable, successful, and driven)
We often are forced to cope by trying to construct and manage our identity and our image in the face of others. This is done in two ways:
(1) Comparison shopping: we evaluate ourselves based on others – our value is found in both fitting in with the “in” crowd and staying ahead of the “out” crowd.
(2) Method acting: we construct and manage our image by modifying our behavior and formulating our identities so that others may see us as “valuable.”
We feel as if life is working “against” us when these expectations go unmet. The good news of the gospel is that God is “for” us. You can click here to read the story of Katie Piper, whose testimony I shared as an example of how the gospel can change our perspective.
The following three ways describe the way that God is “for” us.
(1.) WE ARE SAVED FROM GOD
Phytoremediation is a process by which plants/trees are planted near waterways in order to absorb pollutants through the root systems.
Similarly, the cross of Christ is what God used to remove God’s wrath:
(a) Christ takes the Father’s wrath (Rom 5:9)
(b) We experience a restored relationship with God (Rom 5:10-11)
(c) We become children of God (Rom 8:14-16)
Therefore, we find identity as God’s children.
You can click here to read the Christianity Today article “Abba Changes Everything,” which I quoted from on Sunday.
(2.) WE ARE SAVED BY GOD
Chemical oxidation refers to a process by which purifying chemicals are pumped in as pollutants are removed.
In theology, imputation refers to our sin nature being exchanged for Christ’s righteousness.
(a) Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6).
(b) Adam’s sin exchanged for Christ’s righteousness (Rom 5:12-19).
(c) Christ died once for all (Rom. 6:10).
(d) Salvation is God’s free gift (Rom 6:23).
Therefore, our value is found in Christ’s righteousness.
(3.) WE ARE SAVED FOR GOD
Bioremediation is a process by which bacteria are introduced into polluted waters. They digest pollutants and purify the water source.
Similarly, those who follow Christ receive a living presence in the form of the Spirit.
(a) We can walk by the Spirit (Rom 8:5-11).
(b) We are co-heirs in future glory (Rom 8:17-25).
(c) Eternal security- we can’t lose our salvation (Rom 8:28-38).
Therefore, our purpose is found in God’s Kingdom.
Christopher J Wiles
pastor | writer | speaker
Chris is a writer and speaker. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Tri-State Fellowship and as a research writer for Docent Research Group.
Human beings, as we’ve just noted, bear God’s image. We “take after” God, so to speak—much as we might say that a child “takes after” his earthly father. It means that we share with God some aspect of his character, his nature, even his gifts. In the immediate context of Genesis, this means two things. Because man bears the image of a Creator, we share in his capacity for creativity. And because we bear the image of God’s divine community (Father, Son, and Spirit), we share in his capacity for relationship.
Or perhaps “capacity” is too clinical a term for such elemental gifts. For these qualities are indeed divine gifts, just as human language likewise has its origin in God himself. In his recent work on the clarity of Scripture, Mark Thompson notes that “God is himself the source of human language. He is the first speaker and invests language with a deep significance for generation and nourishing personal relationships.”
If language is a divine gift, writing becomes a liturgical practice. It is through language that the human needs for creativity and relationship are brought together. Surely writing is not the only means of human communication, but there is a uniqueness to the craft that cannot be so easily snuffed out by a so-called “post-literate” world. When we write, we write to engage the world—or at least our small corner of it. We write in order to hone our God-given skills of creativity and make a meaningful contribution to humanity’s collective imagination. We write because it’s in our blood, in our hands, in our soul.
Christianity says that God’s Word shaped God’s original creation, but God’s Word likewise takes prominence in God’s new creation. “In the beginning was the Word,” John tells us—cribbing lines from the opening pages of Genesis. The Word of God, once confined to the page now takes on human flesh in the person of Jesus. Christianity calls this the incarnation, meaning that in Jesus God literally became a human being to walk among us, to share life with us, and to give his life that we might live.
Writing is part of the way we engage and share the gospel narrative. Writing is therefore an incarnational practice, a means by which the story of God is translated into the various languages of human culture.
Living the gospel narrative means not only “take and read” but also “write and give.” Every voice is different. Every voice matters.
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